Michigan Church Morphs into Food Pantry

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When West Forty-Fourth Street Christian Reformed Church in Wyoming, Mich., disbands as a congregation at the end of March, it will continue to serve the community as a food pantry.

Church members unanimously voted to donate the mortgage-free 40-year-old building to Family Network of Wyoming, an interdenominational agency serving hungry people in southwest Grand Rapids.

"About a year or two ago, we realized our church was at the end of its life cycle," said Rev. Hank Vlaardingerbroek, who will retire when the 52-member church closes. He said the congregation is making the transition well. "People are excited about this; they aren't going through a grief process," he said. "There won't be preaching from the pulpit anymore, but they will still be reaching out."

The nonprofit Family Network offers food, cooking and nutrition classes, medical equipment loans, and a Christmas store. Relocating from a cramped storefront site to the church building will put Family Network in the center of its service area, ministry director Glen Walstra said.

The agency feeds about 300 families each month.

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